Using InDesign, Illustrator, and Photoshop Together: Moving Text Between the Programs

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When you move text between InDesign, Illustrator, and Photoshop, you typically have several goals. First, you want the text to stay editable. If the text gets converted into paths, you won't be able to edit it as text any more. Next, you usually want the formatting to remain the same. If text was Minion Pro Bold in Illustrator, you probably want it to stay the same in InDesign. Finally, it would be super-duper if paragraph and character styles remain applied to the text. But accomplishing all these goals is easier said than done.

Moving Text From Illustrator to InDesign

Moving text from Illustrator into InDesign

For some reason, this is the most commonly requested translation. Perhaps it’s because people start with an Illustrator file and then realize they need more of InDesign’s layout features like master pages, auto-numbering, etc.

I’ve tried many ways to get text from Illustrator into InDesign while still retaining the formatting. A simple copy/paste of the Illustrator frame holding the text results in an embedded EPS image of the text in InDesign. Selecting the text in Illustrator and pasting it into InDesign brings in plain text, as does exporting as a .txt file from Illustrator.

If you're desperate, you may have some success with the following technique using Acrobat as a translator.

 

Use Acrobat as a translator between text from Illustrator to InDesign

  1. Save the Illustrator file as a PDF
  2. Open the PDF in Acrobat
  3. Choose Save As and then choose Rich Text Format
  4. In InDesign, choose Place and then select the RTF document
  5. Flow the text into InDesign

 

This creates a reasonably good translation of the text. There may be some problems with local overrides changing some character and paragraph styles; but for the most part, the route is very good.

However, if you’re dealing with a lot of intensive point text, such as a road map, this technique may not work. The RTF text that comes out of Acrobat is much too jumbled to be of any use. In fact, looking at some of the errors, it looks as if some sort of Optical Character Recognition (OCR) commands were applied.

Intensive point text in Illustrator does not convert into RTF correctly. In fact, some text, such as the name Benton Harbor in the upper left corner has been translated into Bentan Harbor.

Moving Text From InDesign to Illustrator

Things are nearly just as problematic moving text from InDesign to Illustrator. If you select a text frame in InDesign; copy it; and then paste it into Illustrator, the formatting is maintained. In fact, things like underlines seem to be translated over. Unfortunately this is an illusion. Select all the text with the Selection tool in Illustrator and look at the result. Instead of area text inside a frame, the text has been pasted as multiple point text objects. And underlines are actual lines drawn under the text, not real underlines. This makes it almost impossible to make significant edits to the text.

An example of a text frame in InDesign

A text frame in InDesign

Text pasted from InDesign into Illustrator

Text pasted from InDesign into Illustrator. Notice all the individual points.

Fortunately the same Acrobat trick works for InDesign to Illustrator.

 

  1. Export the file from InDesign as a PDF
  2. Open the PDF in Acrobat
  3. Choose Save As and then choose Rich Text Format
  4. In Illustrator, choose Place and then select the RTF document
  5. Flow the text into Illustrator

 

Formatting that gets lost

InDesign offers character and paragraph formatting that Illustrator can't match. Something as simple as rules above and below paragraphs have no equivalents over on the Illustrator side. Similarly, Illustrator's Touch Type tool allows you to modify text in ways that InDesign can't.

Illustrator's Touch Type tool lets you modify specialty text while it is still in the story.

Moving Text From InDesign or Illustrator to Photoshop

Things are not quite as bleak when it comes to getting formatted text into Photoshop. You can copy and paste from Illustrator into a Photoshop text area and the text formatting—even underlines—comes along. But you can't copy and paste from InDesign into Photoshop while retaining the formatting. You also can't place any text, except from Acrobat into Photoshop. Photoshop's Place command doesn't recognize text files as objects that can be placed. You could, I suppose, use the InDesign-Acrobat-Illustrator trick to then copy/paste into Photoshop, but the real question is why are you doing so much text work in Photoshop? In most cases, you'd be better off working with the text in InDesign over a placed Photoshop file. 

Plan ahead when working with text

Since there are stumbling blocks in moving text around the three segments of InDe-Illu-Shop, you really need to plan ahead as to which application you want to use for working with text. Pick the one that has the right features for your work.

InDesign has the most extensive options for working with automatic formatting using nested styles and GREP styles. It also has extensive table features for arranging and formatting information in rows and columns. So you're going to want to use InDesign for most long-text print work.

Illustrator offers the most features for specialty text such as type on a path, vertical area text, and the new Touch Type tool which lets you push, pull, raise, lower, and rotate individual glyphs without converting them to anchored objects. This makes it excellent for working with small print projects such as CD covers and package labels.

Photoshop offers specialty anti-aliasing such as crisp and sharp for text that will be viewed on the web.

So when it comes to working with text, the best advice is try to plan ahead and start with the right application. That way you won't need to move the text to another place.

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